Photo: Paul Michael Hughes/Shutterstock

A Meditation on Washing Dishes

by Leigh Shulman Nov 6, 2009
Dirty dishes: the ultimate symbol of household drudgery. See them piled in the sink. Your days are busy. Too much going on. There are calls to return, e-mail lining up in any number of accounts.

Someone always wants something. “Mommy, I can’t find my shoes.” Is the article done yet? Lord, I really should get to the gym today. You have a lot to do. There’s always a lot on your list. There will probably always be a lot on your list.

And that is why those dishes remain in the sink, mocking you. Worst part? The second you clean them, they immediately begin to multiply. Like laundry. Like dirty floors. Clean is only the first step on the way to dirty.

But dishes still have to be done. This is how I do them.

FIRST: I put on a pair of thick rubber gloves, to protect yourself from pruney fingers and scalded skin.

SECOND: Turn on the music. Make sure it’s something that really gets you going.

Oh, you’re telling me you don’t have any great music for that. Take a moment to explore music from around the world. Stack your ipod with fresh beats.

Do away with your excuses and turn on your favorite music, loud.

This is no time to worry about permanent ear damage. Stop thinking about your deadlines. If the baby cries, you won’t be able to hear her anyway. It’s only fifteen minutes. This is as good a time as any to give yourself permission to stop worrying about every other thing in your life.

Then I begin. Water on hot hot hot because that scrapes of the muck most quickly. Wet everything down, start scrubbing. It’s just you, music and dishes.

By now you should be dancing around the kitchen, trying the latest move you learned in belly dancing class. Oh, sorry, you haven’t been? Maybe now is the time to start? You know you’ve always wanted to try belly dancing.

Eventually I flip off my shoes, and I’m swinging barefoot around the kitchen. It’s great, too, if you happen to be wearing a flouncy skirt, because when you twirl around it flares outward.

If you’re saying, I’m a man, I don’t wear skirts, I’m going to tell you to just shut up. Shut up now. Why are you creating more I-Can’ts?

Have you ever tried a flouncy skirt? Maybe something shiny, bubbly. Maybe try it with a shiny blue wig to match. Have you seen the men at Burning Man?

Soap the silverware and plates, put them aside. Then onto the cups and do another twirl around before the bowls.

You are an Arabe queen in your jingly skirt. You are a capoiera master flying through the air, the sexiest tango dancer on the block. You are a fire god, a water goddess rinsing away suds in time to the beat.

What? You’re embarrassed of dancing in public? Who cares? Certainly not you. Not a whit, not a bit. You’re just there to glide through life, move around, play and have fun.

Before you know it, your dishes are done.

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